After an agonising three-year delay, Block9 – Glastonbury’s hedonistic corner of queer culture, electronic music and immersive art – is returning next month. To celebrate, founders Gideon Berger and Stephen Gallagher are planning their best party yet: a weekend of parties inspired by the most notorious rave in UK history, Castlemorton.
The week-long Castlemorton festival, which ran between 22 and 29 May 1992, was the biggest illegal rave that’s ever been held in the country. An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 people gathered at the site, armed with drugs, sleeping bags and powerful sound systems. It was a party so raucous, so legendary, that the local community ended up being “terrorised” and forced to “undergo psychiatric treatment” (so claimed West Worcestershire’s Tory MP, Michael Spicer, at the time).
Castlemorton’s notoriety ended up resulting in the passing of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, which banned outdoor parties that blared music “wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”. It also placed limitations on the power of people to protest against government policy – an issue that is being further eroded by this year’s new Police and Crime Act, which basically bans music from peaceful protests altogether.
“This year, Block9 is paying homage to the philosophy and spirit of Castlemorton,” says Berger, Block9 co-founder. “30 years on, we continue to fight for the utopian dream Castlemorton represented. A dream of music, community, and progressive inclusivity free from state control and corporate profiteering. Block9 is a direct descendant of the Castlemorton epoch and retains direct links to the people, DJs and crews behind the era-defining rave itself.”
The Castlemorton celebrations will mostly be concentrated at Block9’s central Genosys outdoor arena, which will be broadcasting “stripped-back, old-school” rave from a suitably massive sound system and a vintage coach. Acts include OK Williams, Brawther and Berghain’s latest resident Sedef Adasi.
Elsewhere, on Block9’s eastern field, Notting Hill Carnival will be celebrated, with performances from Shygirl, Hercules and Love Affair and Sherelle at the jaw-dropping IICON audiovisual arena. To the west, the unforgettable queer nightlife institution NYC Downlow returns for its 15th anniversary, with sets from Honey Dijon, Todd Edwards, Soul Summit and Justin Strauss.